After Zuma Beach, and a lot of foot scraping, Heather, Rachel and I had lunch with Rachel Young- who readers of this blog might recognize as one of my housemates from Oxford. The four of us had lunch, then we said goodbye to Heather. Rachel drove us to Monrovia, California. Of all the places we stayed on our trip, Monrovia was our favorite. Rachel and I absolutely loved the small down, nestled at the base of mountains, just ten minutes from Pasadena. It is the birthplace of our favorite grocery store (Trader Joe's), and a really nice place. Rachel took us into town a bit, we went to a wine store, then returned home for dinner and a game of Settlers of Catan, which was fun. I did feel a little outnumbered by Rachels, but I guess two Rachels are better than one.
Day Seven - Monrovia Canyon, Venice Beach, and Downtown Disney
On Friday morning, Rachel introduced Rachel and me to quinoa for breakfast- something we've now adopted at our home. Then we drove a mile, to the entrance of Monrovia Canyon.
We spent about three hours hiking through the canyon, towards a waterfall and back, enjoying beautiful weather, wonderful scenery, and even interesting wildlife. There were many lizards, and two snakes (I tried two take a picture of one of the snakes- it's labeled in the video- but I had no desire to photograph the rattler). I loved seeing the mountains everywhere, as we walked through the canyon. I was wearing pants, but felt immensely hot- it was our warmest weather for the trip. After we left, I changed into shorts.
We then met Jacob- Rachel's husband- who had been away in Mexico the day before. The four of us then drove past downtown LA, to Venice Beach. Now in shorts, we all froze! Venice was bitterly cold- the only truly unpleasant weather on our whole trip.
Venice Beach was a bit crazy as people say. It was not Rachel or my favorite place. We did like the residential section with canals, which is not far from the touristy area. After the beach, Jacob drove us to Downtown Disney- which is a mall-like area right outside the entrance gate to Disneyland. The shops are mostly Disney-themed, and it was fun to walk around. Rachel and I bought our hosts dinner at the Jazz Cafe, then we all had dessert at the Rainforest Cafe. I liked feeling like I was at Disneyland (we even saw the fireworks) without actually paying for the park.
Our Last Day - Huntington
I need to pause my narration (which, incidentally, should be imagined being read in Morgan Freeman's voice) to mention the first picture in the video, which is a close-up on an In-and-Out bag. In-and-Out is a fast food burger chain in California. Normally such places wouldn't even get a second glance from me, especially considering how much delicious vegan food we had on our trip. However, every single host we stayed with made a point of mentioning that I had to try an In-and-Out burger. There's nothing there that Rachel can I eat, but on our last day, Rachel Young bought me an In-and-Out burger. I ate it before we all had a picnic lunch outside of Huntington. The burger was good, I admit. I think the hype was rather amusing.
For our picnic, we opened the bottle of wine that Rachel and I had bought in Temecula- it was delicious. We then went inside the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens. The Huntington is a massive library and art collection. They actually house two of Rachel's favorite paintings Blue Boy and Pinkie, though we didn't realize that until the end. There's also a vellum Gutenberg Bible and lots of other neat stuff- but we didn't see any of that. We went for the 120-acres of carefully sculpted botanical gardens. In size it is technically smaller than the National Arboretum- yet the Arboretum is mostly undeveloped or un-walkable. As an entirely walking area- where every inch is part of a garden of some type- the place was the most impressive and enormous botanical gardens I've ever seen- and it was stunning. We especially loved the Chinese and Japanese gardens. All of the flowers- especially the wisteria- seemed to be in bloom. We spent hours walking around, ending in the enormous desert garden, which felt like walking on another world. The Huntington was one of our favorite places- and a wonderful way to end a wonderful vacation. We drove to Pasadena for dinner, then in the parking lot outside Long Beach airport, finished the wine as we said goodbye.
We left California for now, vowing to return, since we had such an amazing trip and loved it there.